Apply lean concepts in IT to make a bridge to the business

Håkan Borglund, CIO at Toyota Material Handling Europe, says applying lean principles to IT deepen its connection to the business

I recently delivered a keynote at the European Lean IT Summit in France and spent a full-day with leading experts in Lean IT, writes Håkan Borglund (pictured).

One of the main topics of the conference was the application of lean concepts in IT. Agile is focused on build activities and the approach has become a standard way of working with IT development in many global organisations. At our organisation we used the agile approach when developing our award winning fleet management solution, Toyota I_Site. It is now in its third release and bringing substantial customer benefits.

Toyota I_Site collects data from the forklift trucks, sends it to a central database via wireless technology and regular mobile networks, without requiring installation of a software or hardware at customer premises. The data, containing detailed engineering, financial and administrative information about each truck in operation, is then analysed by the customer over a web interface. As such, customers can increase productivity, improve safety and reduce costs.

But will the agile approach to development continue? My prediction is that CIOs in 2014 will start to look at lean IT as an important complement to the agile approach.

I strongly believe that one important factor to consider is the possibility of bridging the business with IT through lean principles. The agile model is something mainly used in IT, while TPS [the Toyota Production System] and lean can be used across the company and not only in IT. I would argue that through a sincere implementation of lean thinking an enterprise can move forward, with kaizen and innovation. To support our own organisation in this process we have the five core values of The Toyota Way. These are shared and practiced by Toyota employees at every level in their daily work and relations with others, and it is useful, finally, to list them.

  • Challenge

“To maintain a long-term vision and meet all challenges with the courage and creativity needed to realize that vision.”

  • Kaizen

“Continuous improvement. As no process can ever be declared perfect, there is always room for improvement.”

  • Genchi Genbutsu

“Going to the source to find the facts to make correct decisions, build consensus and achieve goals.”

  • Respect

“Toyota respects others, makes every effort to understand others, accepts responsibility and does its best to build mutual trust.”

  • Teamwork

“Toyota stimulates personal and professional growth, shares opportunities for development and maximises individual and team performance.”

Håkan Borglund is CIO of Toyota Material Handling Europe

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